CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- At Highlawn Elementary, in St. Albans, which I attended from the fourth through the sixth grades, there was a Christmas exchange every December.
Kids put their names on pieces of paper, and the teacher put those slips of paper in a box. We waited for days (it seemed like months) with bated breath hoping we'd get the name of someone we liked and vice versa.
Usually I'd get a name of someone I liked and I would plead with my parents to buy some neat gift. Looking back, I'm certain that a lot of kids' parents couldn't afford a gift and they'd bring something from home or nothing. I felt sorry for them.
Of course, this was the 1950s, when school gifts weren't costly, nor were they supposed to be. A gift was bought, carefully wrapped and taken excitedly to school on the day of the Christmas gift exchange.
I sat waiting for what seemed like an eternity for the exchange. Oh, I had such high hopes of some glorious gift that my heart was thumping. Then I got my gift: a pair of white socks. Pretty sure the giver was thanked but probably not very much.
Who wants socks for a Christmas gift? I didn't -- I was 8 years old! Did other kids want them? Doubt that -- big time.
In the fifth grade, again names were exchanged and gifts bought and taken to school for that blessed event of opening up a treasure. I got white socks, of course. Come to think of it, more than half of the class got white socks -- and there were 50 of us!
By the sixth grade, I knew for sure as I was sitting in my alphabetical seat (and with a last name of R, I sat way back) that I'd get those blasted white socks again that I really didn't want to open my gift. But when it was given to me by a boy I liked, lo and behold, the gift didn't feel like socks, and there was no way that socks could be in such a small box. Hmm.